January 31st – Cold Temperatures = Lots of Buntings

It was cold last night: -18. And the light northerly breeze made it feel even colder; it cut right through you. The buntings didn’t seem to mind though. There was a flock of 200+ waiting for me to replenish the piles of cut corn so they could get on with their day. They flew up when I put up the traps with many landing in a nearby tree – an odd place for a bird that breeds in the Arctic, well above the tree line. But as soon as I turned around to head back to the car, they were all around the traps. The cold weather was whetting their appetites. I cleared the traps at 7:50 and began banding. No sooner were the traps cleared but more birds made their way into them. Interestingly, all the early birds were Snow Buntings – usually it is retrap Lapland Longspurs that go into the traps first but they didn’t show up until later (but when they did, it was en masse). We take feather samples from about 8 birds per day for stable isotope studies. On these birds we take complete morphometric data as well. When we’re not rushed, we try to get this type of data on all the birds we trap. But today was just too busy, so after the mandatory 8 we resorted to ringing and flinging so we could keep up.

Blogmeister Jeff MacLeod and his Dad, David, showed up early. Jeff is visiting from the Halifax area and wanted to get some experience with Snow Buntings. It was a good day for him as he got to band not only buntings but also Horned Larks and longspurs as well.
We had to close up early – we were done by noon – but we had managed to handle 181 birds:

Banded: 113 Snow Buntings, 8 Horned Larks, 5 Lapland Longspurs

Retrapped: 25 Snow Buntings, 30 Lapland Longspurs (including one with a “foreign” band on it)


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